Monday, June 13, 2005

3rd Round of the Lebanese Election: A Christian Revolt. The Syrian government and its client regime in Lebanon in the post-Ta'if period (with the full participation of Hrawi, Hariri, Jumblat, Lahhud, Birri, etc) basically established the premise that Lebanese Christians would not be able to select their own representatives, and that the ruling order (and predominantly Muslims) would select and approve Christian representatives. This was not unlike the way things were done in pre 1975 Lebanon when the powerful Maronite president would try very hard to select and approve Muslim representatives regardless of their true representativeness. This continued even in the 1980s, when Amin Gemayyel plucked the obscure buffoon Shafiq Al-Wazzan and installed him in the prime ministership. In 1957, President Kamil Sham`un rigged the elections to bring his version of Muslim representatives, and he arranged that the real Muslim representatives stay home. In the 1990s, this was reversed against Christian interests. And just to be sure, the most powerful Maronite leaders, Michel `Awn, Samir Ja`ja`, and Amin Gemayyel were either exiled or jailed. This also explained the apathy that was exhibited by Christian voters in the 1996 and 2000 elections. In 1992 there was a successful boycott of the elections by most Christian voters. In this election, the ones who really angered and provoked the Christians were Walid Jumblat and Sa`d Hariri. They wanted to be the final arbiters in the selection and approval of Christian representatives. To be sure, they would say that "we" also brought in "representative" Christians like the fanatics Solange Gemayyel and Jubran Tuwayni. Still, they were selected by Hariri and Jumblat. And in the absence of Syrian troops, Christian voters were not going to accept that, and hence the phenomenon of `Awn. I read some of those indications when the right-wing fanatical publisher Jubran Tuwayni went to the crime scene of the bomb that killed Samir Qasir. Crowds in the Christian area of Ashrafiyyah--which he now represents in parliament--yelled at him, and shouted: "Go to Quraytim." (Quraytim is the name of the area where Sa`d Hariri's palace is located). The high voter turnout in Christian areas and the overwhelming support for `Awn's candidate was very revealing, as was the defeat of major Maronite personalities like Faris S`uayd and Nasib Lahhud. They paid the price for their alliance with Hariri-Jumblat. This will now end once and for all the myth of the "united" "multi-sectarian" opposition in Lebanon. And what opposition? Hariri is now in power represented by the prime minister, Minister of Interior, and Minister of Justice. And key Hariri functionaries are being appointed throughout the Lebanese bureaucracy. You may say that Jumblat still managed to have his list win. True, but by Druze and Muslim voters. In that particular electoral district (Ba`abda-`Alayy), 80 % of Christian voters voted for `Awn. Jumblat, the shifty politician, said that this was a victory of [Christian] extremism versus Christian "moderation." Give me a break; he cannot call his allies Tuwayni, Gemayyel, and most importantly George `Udwan "moderates." In the Biqa` area, `Awn also was victorious in Christian areas, as was Hizbullah in Shi`ite areas. I still do not understand the Hizbullah's alliance with Jumblat, Hariri, Lebanese Forces, etc. That will be the first question I ask to Hasan Nasrallah when I interview him during my trip. `Awn (and I am no fan of his) is absolutely right in calling attention to the petro-dollar role in Lebanese election by the Hariri Political Inc. In this election, there was absolutely no constraints or regulation of political money. Hariri all but threw cash to the crowds in campaign rallies. There was no more clear indications of the changing times than in the fortunes of one particular candidate. Sami Al-Khatib has been aligned with the Syrian government and its intelligence services since the 1960s. For that, he has been rewarded with a variety of positions and perks. But left on his own, he ran and could not even get 3000 votes. His political career is now officially over. This only shows how inaccurate the results of the elections in some areas in past elections. As I had predicted, Hizbullah will even do better politically, and obtain more votes (and administrative appointments as Nasrallah declared the willingness of the party to now fully participate) in the absence of Syrian forces. The sectarian fragmentation of the country deepens, and the Jumblat-Hariri alliance has really provoked Christian sensibilities, and may lead Lebanon into a very unsafe adventure. Now that the elections are almost over, you may expect sectarian discourse to get more blatant and more ugly. Talal Salman now declared the end of the political role of Patriarch Sfayr, and his vehicle the Qurnat Shihwan. And to think that that there were some who believed the lies of the Lebanese opposition about a "united Lebanese front." In the next (and last) round next Sunday, I will be in Lebanon, and I shall